RAW goes global

The Nijjar case also served as a warning for Pakistan

The recent killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a leader of the Khalistan movement, on Canadian soil was not taken lightly by the Canadian government. PM Justin Trudeau’s direct accusation of the involvement of the Modi-led Indian government brought into the spotlight the activities of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

These accusations cannot be deemed unwarranted. The Indian government declared Nijjar a terrorist who was involved in the campaign of Sikh separatist Khalistan movement. And his murder after this declaration cannot be termed coincidental.

According to the latest report of The Intercept, a US online news outlet, RAW has been planning assassinations targeting Sikh and Kashmiri activists residing in foreign countries. According to another report, RAW has been engaged in a global push for several years. Its officials confirmed its expansion after 2008. Since then, acts of violence similar to Nijar’s assassination have been well documented in various parts of the world, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. All of them fit RAW’s pattern. For example, this May, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, a Sikh separatist leader was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan. Like Nijjar, he was also an India-declared ‘most wanted’ terrorist. There are countless other cases that follow a similar pattern.

It would not take a genius to match the dots for these two successive murders and trace their roots. The pattern is clearly visible. A Canadian Sikh separatist Bhagat Singh stated that anyone who speaks out against the Indian government anywhere in the world is under threat. The increasing acts of violence on Indian critics and the fool-proof evidence of Nijjar’s murder provided by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance strongly suggest RAW’s involvement in these acts.

In September, after Nijjar’s orchestrated murder in Canada, the FBI issued a warning to a number of Sikh Americans about their lives being in danger. In October, the family of Avtar Singh Khanda, a pro-Khalistan UK resident, claimed that the Indian intelligence agency poisoned him to death for protesting outside the Indian High Commission in London.

People who are critical of the Indian government reside all over the world. They’re not safe anywhere. Apparently, RAW has gone global in its assassination programme. It is proving to be a source of instability and threat for not only its neighbors but also its Western allies.

If the agency goes rogue, there will be serious global implications. The incidents of violence could increase. In light of this, the international community must intervene to stop India’s increasing terrorism on international soil. People’s right to free speech everywhere must be safeguarded.

Pakistan has made countless sacrifices to maintain peace in its territory. These include the loss of thousands of lives of civilians, military and police officials, politicians and journalists.  And the international community acknowledges these efforts. Being surrounded by hostile neighbors, including India and Afghanistan, Islamabad is struggling to cater to its people’s interests. New Delhi should also adopt this approach and do away with populist politics to appease mobs of voters for selfish political gains. Instead of destabilizing the neighbor, development of human capital should be India’s primary consideration.

In South Asia, Pakistan has always remained a flagged area for RAW activities. Intelligence gathered by Pakistan’s spy agency unveils New Delhi’s footprints in using terrorism to destabilize Islamabad. Through RAW, India regularly finances banned outfits, like the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). An Indian spy working for RAW, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested in 2016 on the charges of terrorist activities in Balochistan. In a video confession, Jadhav admitted, “These activities have been of anti-national or terrorist nature which resulted in the killing and wounding of Pakistani citizens.” In 2020, it was revealed that not only Indian spies but diplomats and military officers too were engaged in terrorist incidents in Pakistan. With India’s help, these groups orchestrated countless terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including the APS massacre in 2014, attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange in 2020, Mastung attack in 2023, and many others.

Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed. Even foreigners have also been attacked. In the war-torn areas of Pakistan, 7.9 million people became internally displaced. According to the Watson Institute, more than 67,000 Pakistanis lost their lives to terrorism, while the property damage is worth billions of dollars. Such incidents have hindered the growth of Pakistan and kept its status as that of a mere security state.

Ironically, New Delhi leaves no forum to slam Pakistan with terrorism charges. It showcases nothing but India’s own double standards. It sends its spies to incite violence on Pakistani soil and in return plays the victim by accusing Pakistan of terrorism. As of 2020, the intelligence report shared by the top brass showed that the Indian intelligence agencies were running 87 terrorist camps targeting Pakistan. There is also evidence of RAW providing weapons to the TTP.

As if it is not evidence enough, one may consider this: the Five Eyes, consisting of the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, gave the information of Indian involvement in Nijjar’s murder. The testimony of five of the top Western powers is enough to label RAW a terror sponsor. After this assertion, India’s credibility as a state is at question. It has become hard for the international community to trust India.

The reliability of the Indian spy agency’s own resources is also in question. For example, India initially blamed Pakistan for the 2008 Mumbai attack. However, in 2009, it arrested a US citizen for the attacks and called him an American ‘double agent’.

In such a state, India is nowhere near to be called a reliable or trustable strategic partner, both in the East and the West.

Pakistan has made countless sacrifices to maintain peace in its territory. These include the loss of thousands of lives of civilians, military and police officials, politicians and journalists.  And the international community acknowledges these efforts. Being surrounded by hostile neighbors, including India and Afghanistan, Islamabad is struggling to cater to its people’s interests. New Delhi should also adopt this approach and do away with populist politics to appease mobs of voters for selfish political gains. Instead of destabilizing the neighbor, development of human capital should be India’s primary consideration.

Nadeem Ismail
Nadeem Ismail
The writer is a student of Strategic Studies at National Defence University. Email: [email protected]

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